Monday, September 30, 2013

One month into homeschooling

In November last year, I felt I got a direct nudge (even a bit of lecture) from God about how He wanted me to home-school. I've been talking about it for years, and my oldest daughter is already 12, and starting 6th grade this fall. She was required to switch schools this year (as her grade school only goes through 5th grade), so it seemed like a good time to start. Besides that, I knew God wanted me to try this.  It's been just amazing to see how since that first big nudge he gave me last November, He's taken me on this twisty path (including an offer of a full time job, and then that same job being given to someone else), finally bringing me here to home schooling.

I knew it would be a hard adjustment for all of us. I was warned there would be many days I'd want to quit, the girls would want to quit, even my husband might want me to quit.

Oh, so true! And I had no idea just how exhausting and consuming home-school would be, even with just my two older girls (Blaze, 12 and Dreamer, 9 - their screen names).  My six year old twins are still going to public school.

But I also knew there would be blessings. Oh, so true! 

For the first three weeks we pretty much had this pattern: a bad day where Blaze complained and whined, but Dreamer was willing; then the next day where Blaze was okay but Dreamer got frustrated with something and would cry. There's been many days where I felt stymied at every turn and would finally just sit at the table with the girls silently praying - God, you need to intervene here. I'm completely stuck. 

Mixed in with this mess of whining, balking and crying have been some beautiful moments. Excitement about learning. Good discussions. Wonderful surprises.

And by the fourth week, I was really starting to see some overall improvement - the girls and I gradually getting adjusted to the new routine. Less whining, less tears. Recognizing when something was going to switch from frustrating to a real fretting, and being able to switch to another task before hitting the meltdown point.

This is a huge adventure we are on together and despite the hard times, I love it!

Here are some of things I've learned on this first month our adventure together.

1) You never know when something is going spark interest
  I was going over the discussion questions after Blaze's required reading, which was a short story called Three Copper Pennies. The conclusion of this story was "true happiness is found from within, not in things or wishes coming true."  I challenged Blaze to think about what the Bible says true happiness comes from.  I shared how  I'm currently learning in my Bible study, one of the things that brings us joy is thankfulness. Suddenly Blaze got all excited and told me about a book she'd read last year, Where the Mountain Meets the Moon. Thrilled to see her excited about something, I let her tell me the whole plot of the story... it took some time. But hey, she's excited about this, so I tried not to let the itch to get back to the curriculum make me rush her through her story. A king is searching for true happiness in this story, and he sees a poor peasant that has happiness and asks him what the secret is... the peasant gives him a paper with the answer but the paper's blown away... much more happens that I don't remember but finally the King discovers what was written on the paper was thankfulness, thankfulness, thankfulness...

2) I have to be flexible with what I plan to accomplish, because when something sparks my girls' interest (like above), I need to let them run with it for a while, even if it gets "off schedule".  That's the beauty about home school, we can take unexpected detours, where as in tightly scheduled regular school you can't take these exciting detours.

3) It's really easy to get behind schedule. Especially with the K12 curriculum I chose. I picked this path because I wanted all the free support, including a teacher, you get with this program. The program does allow some flexibility, but not as much as I'd like. It's very much a public school program very focused on testing.  Next semester I may try to switch to a Christian curriculum but initially I was too overwhelmed by all the choices with Christian curriculums... and their prices.

4) It's tempting to skip starting off in the Word and in Bible study, because I look at everything we need to accomplish at school (and stuff I also need to accomplish with my part time job) and I think we just don't have time for anything "extra".  But being in the Word is not "extra." I have to keep reminding myself that... and the time we give God, He can give back to us.

5) It's really hard to prepare for things ahead of time, but it actually saves me time if I do some planning.

6) Mondays are especially hard starting back to school after the freedom of the weekend.

7) Sometimes it's okay to start the day in bed. Seriously. I'll get Blaze and Dreamer to crawl in my big bed with me as we start Bible study. Or sometimes I'll bring their materials to them in their beds if they really want that.

8) It helps to include uplifting music when our spirits are down... or when we're sluggish in the morning. My current go-to song is Lord, I Need You, Matt Maher's version.

9) Home school often means a messy house. Stuff everywhere. Sand on the floor (science experiment). It doesn't have to get cleaned up immediately... And the occasional misplaced book will eventually get found.

10) I love how being involved in my kids' learning allow me to point things out we've learned through out the day, not just when it's official school time. Like the night we were watching PBS' Nature at Grandma and Grandpa's and they showed lines of latitude and longitude on the globe and I pointed it out and the girls remembered which lines were lat and which were longs. Or when we went up to Vedauwoo for a "field trip" and I could point out (and they were interested in) signs of weathering and erosion that we'd learned about in science.

And here are some of the blessings and fun moments I've had with the girls. These will eventually get numbered with my 1000 gifts, but I'm so far behind getting all my gifts from this summer typed up!

688. Advice for teaching resistant learners. 
A list of links N.L.W. sent me about suggestions for kids that are resistant to home schooling (like Blaze was, initially). The timing of her sharing these links with me was perfect because I was so discouraged, but reading these gave me hope and determination again.

689.  My kids starting their own gift lists.
They started making their lists on the tablet. One day I checked the lists, and discovered both had added things to them without me reminding them.

690. My kids starting a goals list, too. 
Blaze came up with the idea of in addition to her gifts list, starting a goals list. I'm so proud of the goals she picked! I'd love to share them but I better check with her first.

691. Compiled all my bible study resources and found some great ideas to do with the girls
Including sharing our family tree and talking about one of my favorite ancestors, my great-great-grandmother Mary Letitia Richey and the difficulties she faced in her life... and tying this into Jesus' family tree, how Ruth and Rahab were part of his lineage and the trials they faced that grew their faith. So many more ideas too.

692. Dreamer's cheerful way of saying "Sure!" when I ask her to do something. 
She struggles sometimes with all the changes, but she is always willing to try. When she's having a good day she'll say "I'm so glad I'm not having a struggling day."

693. Tying lessons to maps (I love maps!) 
One thing I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE about the K12 curriculum is almost every lesson seems to tie into a map. They're constantly making us use maps, asking us where things are, and since I'm a geographer and a map-maker, I LOVE it and I think the girls like it, too. Blaze blew me away one day when she wanted to use Google maps to find something that we weren't even asked to find, and then she showed me how you can get to Streetmap from Google Maps, and we ended up wasting an hour (but what a great waste) using StreetMap to travel down a real road in Kentucky to the opening of Mammoth Cave... and later we used it to "drive by" my old house where I grew up in Buffalo, New York.

694. Getting to share some of things from my own gifts list with the girls
Things they've done or we've done together that I was thankful for - going back 4 years ago. Also I shared with them a neat thing I just learned from the book, A Thousand Gifts: when Jesus took the five loaves and two fishes, he gave thanks and then there was enough bread for everyone. The miracle occurred when he gave thanks.

695. Fun doing our first science experiment together. 
A couple cups of sand, pipecleaners, toothpicks and craft sticks, and a hair blow dryer (testing different methods of stabilizing sand dunes to prevent the spread of deserts into arable land). Blaze loves hands on things like this! It was interesting even for me to see which method worked best and then making a graph comparing results. Made remember why I fell in love science and wanted a career in it, so so many years ago.

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